Is God’s Forgiveness Unconditional?


Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

-Acts 2:37-38, KJV (quotation marks and emphasis added)

Unconditional Forgiveness

Is God’s forgiveness of us unconditional? (And by extension, do we need to forgive cheaters unconditionally?)

My answer to the first question is that it depends on what is meant regarding “unconditional.”

God’s forgiveness is not something anyone earns. It is not based on us proving our worthiness for forgiveness as no one could do so. We are unworthy of such extravagant mercy and grace. It is unconditional in the sense that we do not and cannot earn it.

However, it is conditional on the sense that the gift only works if it received. Such a gift of forgiveness cannot be received without repentance as I read Scripture. God will not force people to receive His offer of forgiveness. In His great love for us, He respects our agency and ability to reject His love (e.g. Hebrews 10:26-27).

God died for the entire world as I read Scripture (e.g. John 3:16). However, the whole world is not “saved” from damnation.

The difference between those who have eternal life (and are therefore forgiven) and those who do not is a difference of knowing Jesus and not knowing Jesus (see Mt 7:23).

No one who refuses to repent–i.e. turn from ongoing sin–is capable of knowing God. I John 3:6 makes that clear. This means repentance is required in some way in order to effectively receive God’s free gift of forgiveness. 

God’s forgiveness is not conditioned on us “earning” or “deserving” it. However, it is conditioned on us receiving it.

An arrogant individual who defies God by refusing to repent is incapable of receiving such forgiveness. I do not see Scripture teaching that such an individual is unconditionally forgiven but rather that God will judge him/her (e.g. Heb. 10:26-27).

It is God’s place to judge and take vengeance (see Romans 12:19). This is in part why I instruct faithful spouses to hand over their injustices regarding an unrepentant cheater to God as oppose to try and usurp His place in taking revenge. Doing anything more than that is improper when dealing with an unrepentant cheater.


An unrepentant cheater is not in a place where he or she is capable of receiving forgiveness.

We are instructed to forgive as God forgave us (e.g. Ephesians 4:32). God ultimately does not forgive an unrepentant sinner as such a sinner cannot receive His gift. By continuing to sin, he or she is willfully defying God and thereby denying a need for such a gift.

So, a follower of Christ ought not to forgive an unrepentant cheater either in that sense.

The gift of forgiveness may be unconditionally free, but only those who are prepared to receive it will be forgiven.

12 thoughts on “Is God’s Forgiveness Unconditional?”

  1. I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    This verse doesn’t directly use the word, “repentance.” But, it is obviously foolish to confess a sin to God if there is no remorse, nor a desire to stop the sin. If God wants repentance and candid confession as part of the believer’s life to bring cleansing and reconciliation, then it doesn’t make sense to think He requires us to give a cheater automatic forgiveness. It doesn’t fit the example Jesus gave us — for salvation, or otherwise.

  2. Another thought…

    The Gospel/Evangel is the “good news”. It really makes no sense to say a person could receive the good news of having sins removed if they either A) don’t believe they sinned, or B) don’t think their sin matters. Believing that they have eternal life because Jesus died for their sins becomes something of a disgusting joke, or at least it’s an astonishing blindness.

    At the risk of seeming over dramatic, the way it feels in my soul is:
    I can have *all* my sins taken away!? And Jesus takes *all* the punishment including death!?? God wants me to repent, and trust in the Savior’s sacrice? GOOD NEWS!!!! I SIN! I HATE MY SIN! I’M FILTHY!! PLEASE TAKE *MY* SIN!!

    If my wife came to that place where she opened up and confessed/repented (it would need to be with others around)… she can’t really make up for the pain she has caused, but I doubt I could stop myself from heaping love and forgiveness on her. I’ve been craving that for so many years.

    1. Although my ex-wife confessed there was no repentance. She was openly defiant regarding her adultery. Your last sentence really moved me. I have that longing also but I’m not sure I could ever be with that person again, even if she did repent. Just being honest.

    2. Object of content:
      You brought up something that took me a long while to deal with and possibly still working on… Ex Spouse truly confessing and asking for repentance. I hoped for so long he would tell the truth and be truly repententive. I too, was willing to pour out love and forgiveness, if only he asked for it. It never happened and we divorced. 2 years later almost to the date of our divorce he writes an email with full disclosures and public profession of his love of OW. It meant nothing to me because he still was not truly repententive of the pain he caused. In my eyes, it was an act of true evil. 2 years after divorce is not the time to open such a wound. I feel he was trying to keep hold of his kibbles and wanted to stir things up. I told him I pray for him and the OW and pray for their salvation. Letting go and letting God

      1. Michael, and Moxie,

        I hear what you’re both saying… I didn’t go into detail, so it’s not obvious why I said others would have to be present if/when she confesses/repents. My wife is emotionally abusive and it grew from withholding love/intimacy (sex w/o love), DARVO, gaslighting, and constant invalidation, to include character assassination. All the men in one church gathered in a room and accused me of things I hadn’t done, and chewed on me (some things they waited and sent a letter before they made the false accusation).

        Although their actions show that it isn’t wise to go back to that church, there are some people who are valuable to me there. Those relationships are completely wrecked.

        If my wife actually decided that she would repent and help restore those relationships, it would show self-denial, love of the truth, love and honor to me, understanding of redress, love of justice, and whatever else I might’ve forgotten.

        I’m not deluded. I know this would be a miracle. I have asked God to replace her heart of stone with a heart of flesh… He could do it, but He usually allows people to choose. I won’t be holding my breath.

        1. Yes, I wouldn’t hold my breath either. I believe not interfering with our freewill is one of God’s primary directives. Only then can we truly reciprocate His love. I do believe that He can speak to one through others, situations among other things, to encourage one to repent. However, I don’t believe that he would go as far as to replace ones heart. That would be interfering and taking away ones ability to choose. God is able to do this but He wouldn’t.

  3. Thank you Rev David for being so responsive. Once again you’ve eased my mind. I have lost all confidence in church in general and this is the only place that I can turn for sound, scriptural advice. Every time a “Christian” tries to tell me something about scripture, I feel a stirring in my heart that what I’m hearing is heresy. When I check the verses they quote, sure enough it’s not what the Bible says. There is always a subtle difference but sometimes it’s profound. I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened in the last year. I’ve come to realize these types are more submerged in the Christian sub-cult than they are in the Word.

    One good thing, and thanks to God, is that I know scripture much better. But I feel marooned now. It’s tough to find others who dare to be counter-culture and are rooted in the Word and the Word only. Thank God for this blog!!

    1. Michael, I agree with you !!! Are churches today so about money that they over look sin? When I asked questions concerning my husband’s eternal life I was told not to Judge. That I needed to forgive and take the highroad. My questions were to address concerns my adult children had.
      From what I have read online most faithful spouses are broke after divorce. I am a friend from being homeless.( Back surgery in addition to having a cheating spouse. Is just the tip of the iceberg of what I have been through)
      If it’s not about money, is it that adultery is lurking in their hearts and minds?
      My knowledge of scripture is greatly improved and my relationship with God is stronger then ever. It is only through God that I have survived his guidance and the placement of “Angels Unaware” has been such a blessing to behold.
      Although the wrapping on this gift I have received had barbed wire and glass shards. The Gift has been Awesome!!!!

  4. After my divorce, my ex-husband and I talked about the possibility of remarriage. I asked him to confess and repent for his adultery. I was very devastated by the realization that he had been intimate with another woman, but I thought if he would confess and repent, we might be able to work through it. Sadly, he denied ever having an affair in the first place, despite evidence to the contrary. There was neither confession nor repentance. His conditions for remarriage for me were to “stop talking about THAT”, to purchase him a truck and to sell the marital home which I received in the divorce and purchase another home. There was no remarriage. Thank you for stressing the importance of repentance.

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